USA TODAY:

Reining in holiday spending gets complicated when your young children really believe that reindeer are involved.

It’s one thing to tell teenagers that money is tight this year and there will be slim pickings under the tree. But kids who still believe in Santa Claus see Christmas a bit differently.

After all, Santa makes all the gifts. So what’s wrong with asking for a Nintendo DS and an iPod?

But today’s tough economy can be a great opportunity for parents to teach even the littlest kids some powerful lessons about money and spending, says Susan Beacham, founder of moneysavvygeneration.com, which sells educational products to teach kids about money.

Austin Keck of Sammamish, Wash., decided to help his parents out a little this year when his 9-year-old sister, Stacie, asked what the economy had to do with Santa’s Workshop.

Austin simply explained that Santa may make the toys, but he “sends the bills to the parents.”

Beacham suggests telling little ones that they should put their “No. 1 need and No. 1 want” on a list for Santa.

“It’s important for kids to understand that Santa is going to bring some needs” as well, she says.

It’s also important to remind kids that Christmas is about more than gifts, she says. Along with its religious aspects, Christmas should be about families spending time together, she says.

Photo by yksin.

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